Redesigning the Reference course

Please spread this post far and wide (I ask of the 4 people who are reading this)… I’d like to get feedback on this from as many corners as possible. I’m one of the two faculty instructors for INLS 501, the Reference course in the School of Information and Library Science. That’s not to say that only the two of us ever teach the course; the School has several other.. Read More

Expertise swell in Wikipedia?

At the 2002 VRD conference, my now-colleague Phil Edwards (at the time we were both still mere doctoral students) presented a paper titled: Characterization of Volunteer Expertise Within the Internet Public Library Reference Service. In that study he found what he called “expertise swell.” In other words, novice IPL volunteers answer questions on a limited range of subjects (users submitting questions via the IPL’s Ask A Librarian webform can self-categorize.. Read More

EB Widgets

‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ Is Now Free to Bloggers, from the Chronicle Wired Campus The Great EB has gone Web 2.0: first, they have a new blog. And second, they’ve developed a widget that enables access to a topically-defined set of resources from the EB. Unfortunately the widgets are by registration only, but it’s a start. I’ve registered for a widget, though I’m not sure I deserve one, as I’m hardly the.. Read More

Slam the Boards + Yahoo Answers = frustration for your humble narrator

On September 10 there was a sort of guerilla action digital reference event, called Slam the Boards. This was “a day-long answer fest” where reference librarians would answer as many questions as they could in one day, using authoritative resources. This was quite well publicized, at least in the digital reference community, and planning had been underway for more than a month. It’s not clear how many librarians actually participated,.. Read More

Digital. Reference. Work.

I got back from JCDL a few days ago, and I keep meaning to write a post about some impressions & observations from the conference. Maybe I’ll even get around to doing that. But the first observation I want to make is this: there seems to be some semantic slippage happening around the term “digital reference work.” Specifically, there was a paper titled A Dynamic Ontology for a Dynamic Reference.. Read More

Yet another commercial, non-expert Ask service

I got this email today from Amazon: You’re Invited! As a valued Amazon customer, you’ve been specially picked to get an early look at a new website Amazon has just launched called Askville. Askville is a place where you can ask any question on any topic and get real answers from real people. It’s a fun place to meet others with similar interests to you and a place where you.. Read More


Thanks to Jason for pointing this out (and yes, I’m more than a little behind on reading my regular blogs): Wikipedia has a Reference Desk. Apparently The Wikipedia reference desk works like a library reference desk. Though without the librarians, and, one presumes, using only one information source. Members of my beloved audience (all 3 of you) know that I’m a loyal fan of Wikipedia. And I am also a.. Read More

Conversation with Gary Price

Gary Price posted an item to ResourceShelf recently about Fred & my new paper in RSR. And when he did, he emailed me to let me know he had, which I consider to be very good blog netiquette. He did the same thing when he posted a link to that paper when it was a wee technical report, so I can only assume that he makes a regular practice of.. Read More

Britannica Strikes Back

Back in December Nature conducted a study comparing Britannica & Wikipedia, and reported that they are about equal in accuracy & error rates. Now — better late than never — Britannica has issued a retort to that study. (I’d love to read the full text of this, but unfortunately the PDF file won’t open. Is this an inadvertent comment on Britannica’s technological competence? I leave that as an exercise for.. Read More

A reference source for your inner obsessive-compulsive

A Book for People Who Love Numbers, from the NY Times The new edition of Historical Statistics of the United States. …it weighs 29 pounds. It has five volumes. And it’s densely packed with more than a million numbers that measure America in mind-boggling detail, from the average annual precipitation in Sweet Springs, Mo., to the wholesale price of rice in Charleston S.C., in 1707. “You’d have to be a.. Read More